Dealing with fertility setbacks & trauma during lockdown

Sydney lockdown 2.0 is relentless. There are some freedoms being granted, thankfully, in Sydney at least, but what happens if you are experiencing the struggles of infertility or pregnancy loss during a time of lockdown? An experience which makes you feel completely isolated when you have a support network around you becomes even more isolating and emotional during lockdown. The way you may typically escape from your reality for a while is no longer an option. For me, whether it be long lunches with girlfriends, or strolling around the shops for some retail therapy, instead I am left alone with my thoughts. And what a rabbit hole you can go down when you are left there.

You see a couple of weeks into lockdown I had the news that our third embryo transfer to our surrogate was unsuccessful. Although I was very realistic and not getting our hopes up, we really thought this time was it. We navigated everything we had to during a lockdown to make the transfer happen and to make my surrogate feel as supported as she could, giving ourselves virtual high fives along the way. "We got this" was often messaged between us all. But no, yet another setback in my complicated and completely unfair journey.

I had been there before, many times. The disappointment, the sadness, the anger. But this time there seemed to be a delayed reaction. I was pretty unemotional for a week until the following week when it hit me. The tears came first, like a torrent of water making its way down the river of rapids, so I sat with that sadness, with that grief and still sit with it now. But then the anger came. Again. The "why's" the "hows" the "this is so unfair".

You see it doesn't matter how many times you endure a setback. Each time hurts like a punch in the stomach and each time fills you with such raw emotion, you don't know how you will ever get out of it. But you do. I do. And if you are ever in doubt, you absolutely can get out of it too, even if just for a moment.

So reflecting on the last few weeks and predicting we won't be out of this lockdown any time soon, my heart goes out to anyone who is experiencing any kind of trauma during this time. Whether it be a failed transfer, a negative pregnancy test, a miscarriage or something else, it isn't right that you suffer in silence. So, below are some reminders for what can help if you are experiencing this kind of trauma, particularly in a lockdown-type situation.

  1. Just do whatever you can to keep busy

That rabbit hole I was talking about, its deep and its dark. So distractions are more than ok. It doesn't mean you are avoiding the grieving process or bottling up your emotions, it just means you are getting some respite from the pain for a while. From binge watching your show, to finding a creative outlet, to cleaning and more cleaning - distract yourself. De-cluttering the cupboards is very cathartic as it also symbolises cleaning out your headspace.

  1. Whatever you are feeling, acknowledge it, welcome it and then send it away (until it comes back)

Now distractions aside, there will come the time to acknowledge your emotions. And there will be a rollercoaster of them. I have learnt (after a long time), that emotions aren't mutually exclusive. I labelled my days and my energy based on one emotion. I would have either a happy day, a sad day or an angry day. If I felt one, I honestly thought I couldn’t feel another. Then if it were a sad day, I would feel guilty for feeling a moment of happiness. I have come to realise that all the emotions we feel because of what we go through are ying and yang. They exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites. Whatever you feel, whenever you feel it, sit with it.

  1. Communicate with your partner

I was not a big communicator and I very rarely shared my feelings because it was not something that I was brought up to do. For me it was a learned skill, and it has led to my relationship with my husband only getting stronger through all the obstacles we have faced. Men are not mind readers and it is extremely difficult for them to see the one they love go through something so traumatic both physically and emotionally. They grieve too, but differently. I typically would bottle things up and the roller coaster of emotions I go through each day would be completely confusing for him. By letting them into your feelings it helps them become part of the process of healing. It also allows you to sit comfortably in your emotion whether that be absolute heartbreak where you want to lie in bed or sit in the shower and cry, or anger where even the smallest of things is too much.

  1. Create space

As women, we try and be everyone and everything. Wife, daughter, friend, sister, Mum (if you already have a child), employee, manager, you get the idea. All of these roles are consuming but to be trying to be all of these at the same time as carrying the burden of a setback and trauma, well it is too much. You don't have to carry all the load in the same way you may normally do. Create space during this to just be. Be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack.

  1. Practice self-care - whatever that looks like

During lockdown, facials, massages and all those things we may place in the bucket of 'self-care' isn't an option. But this is an opportunity to approach self-care in a different way. Simply getting enough sleep (because our emotions are always heightened when we are tired) is self-care. So is binge watching Netflix with a massive bowl of ice cream. So is meditating. So is reading. So is a glass of wine or coffee. And I cannot underestimate the importance of exercising. I run, but on the days I can't even manage that, a short walk with my dog is all I need to feel a bit better.

  1. Stay connected with people

Honestly, I need to practice what I preach with this one a bit more. It is so easy after a trauma, and particularly in lockdown, to stay insular and completely switch off from friends and family. But I know on the days where I have had some sort of connection with people outside my household, I feel so much better for it.

  1. Have a break from social media

Mindless scrolling through your feeds certainly sucks up time, but when your feed is filled with everyone else's happy lives, pregnancy announcements, and baby pictures, it can be totally overwhelming to the point where you can't breathe. Of course we are happy for those women lucky enough to be having or have had a baby, but when you are grieving what could have been, it can take its toll. Even just 24 hours of a social media detox, I find a weight lifts. Social media can be a distraction, but when it becomes a negative one, just give it a little break.

  1. Put on the feel good music - LOUD!

There is no doubt that music plays a role in connecting us to our emotions. Play a sad song, feel sad, play an upbeat song, feel happy and energised. When you are feeling low and in a dark place, popping on whatever your feel good go-to music is, will bring some light. Pump up the volume, dance around even, and it will help lift the heaviness of the trauma for that period of time. Just the other day Whtiney Houston's 'Step By Step' came on when I was feeling low, and I instantly felt a shift.

Trauma changes you. Even in a crowded room you can never feel more alone so in lockdown it brings an even greater feeling of loneliness. Everyone deals with trauma differently. Above all else, be kind to yourself during this time.

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Copyright 2021 - Anita Thompson -